How Builders are Making Room for Multiple Generations

Members | June 10, 2012

The National Association of Home Builders selected multigenerational living as a top housing trend for 2012.

Multigenerational housing is back and it’s gaining popularity, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Living spaces that house older adults, their children or grandchildren landed on the NAHB’s 2012 list of the hottest design trends for new homes.

This isn’t the first time that multigenerational housing has been a popular choice among Americans. By the end of the Great Depression, about 25% of the U.S. population lived in multigenerational households, according to Senior Housing News

That number dropped to 15% in 1950 and to 12% in 1980. But now, as the nation struggles to recover from the economic downturn, home sharing among the generations is beginning an upward trend to 17%.  

Different approaches

Not all multigenerational housing looks alike. Some developers are simply splitting large homes in two and providing a separate entrance for each generation. Others are looking for new ways to build mixed-age living spaces. One idea is to include dual master bedroom suites under one roof, or to build “in-law” apartments with their own separate functionalities. 

Still others are addressing the multigenerational trend by converting garages into living spaces for older adults, or installing stand-alone “Granny Flats” that can house older relatives in the backyards of their adult children.  

Other trends for 2012

In addition to multigenerational living, 3 other trends were listed on the NAHB’s 2012 list

  • Reworked Spaces: New homes are allowing plenty of space for family interaction in high-traffic areas such as the kitchen. But they’re eliminating formal dens and home offices that aren’t frequently used. “Pocket offices” provide small spaces in large pantries where family members can pay bills and conduct other household business. Window seats and alcoves provide areas for private time, without taking up too much space. Laundry facilities are popping up in the walk-in closets of master bedrooms.
  • More Amenities: Builders are compensating for smaller unit size by offering more amenities in their developments. These perks include gyms, media rooms, libraries and business lounges featuring individual workspaces.
  • Low-Cost Innovative Designs: Say goodbye to multiple roof lines and other complicated designs that add cost and space to a home. Instead, cost-effective rectangular homes are the order of the day. Visually stimulating design hasn’t disappeared from new housing, but it tends to play a more subtle role. One popular design uses 2 corner windows to offer good views and lots of light. Builders are also using a mix of exterior materials – like metal, wood and stone – to lend a modern look to new homes.